We all love to watch a film which scores very well with its comedy where the lead actors themselves are funny, especially when they are naturally good at it right? So wouldn’t we watch yet another movie featuring the same lead actors, playing the same characters, literally taking off from where they left in the earlier film? And what if this film works as well and spawns a 3rd film (now leading to a franchise by itself) which goes on to work as well with the audience and critics? Now there have been film franchises worldwide and India has been no exception to the same. But generally when a sequel itself finds it difficult to repeat the glory of the 1st film is it not wonderful to see 3 films emerging successfully as part of a trilogy of sorts and still remembered with affection, nearly 25 years after the release of the 3rd film? Yes I am referring to the 3 films which are now fondly referred to as part of the Dasan and Vijayan trilogy, Nadodikattu (1987), Pattanapravesham (1988) and Akkare Akkare Akkare (1990).
Purely in terms of box office success I’d say that the Dasan and Vijayan trilogy has series competition from the likes of the CBI Diary Series (already 4 films old and a 5th in talks apparently) or the Dhoom series. But then what makes the Dasan and Vijayan series very special is that they are basically films with a strong dose of comedy and which have gone on to make not just the lead pair but also various other characters iconic over the course of time. Ramdas or Dasan (Mohanlal) and Vijayan (Sreenivasan) are unemployed youths and close friends. A turn of events sees them earning the wrath of a smuggler and in the ensuing process; Dasan and Vijayan go on to join the CID, becoming quite popular as well. This is what makes these two characters so endearing even today. Back in the 80’s unemployment was not something exaggerated and people could relate to it quite well. And in a peculiar sort of way seeing two unemployed youth struggle and later turn successful was quite inspiring of sorts, especially since Dasan and Vijayan could pass off as your friendly neighbourhood youths. Looking back at the trilogy it’s also fascinating to see how the characters and the 1st film, Nadodikattu took shape.
Sathyan Anthikkad who directed Nadodikattu and Pattanapravesham has been forthright in admitting that the success of the characters and the films is a result of team work. Originally based on a story written by Siddique-Lal, the script of Nadodikattu was developed by Sreenivasan and modified suitably. The film was produced by Casino Productions, a film production house co-owned by Century Kochumon, Mohanlal, I.V. Sasi, Seema and Mammootty, making it an even more special combination. Interestingly all the three films have a different producer, with Pattanapravesham being produced by Siyad Koker and Akkare Akkare Akkare by G.P.Vijayakumar and Priyadarshan took over the directorial mantle from Sathyan Anthikkad when it came to making Akkare Akkare Akkare. But despite all this if there’s a wonderful homogeneity between the films, then that stems from the fact that all the 3 films have been written by Sreenivasan, and that Mohanlal and Sreenivasan remain constant in these films, playing Dasan and Vijayan respectively.
The films in the trilogy show Dasan and Vijayan cracking important cases, which even the local police is incapable of. However unlike Sethurama Iyer (Mammootty) who plays a serious investigator in the CBI Diary series, Dasan and Vijayan are two bumbling CID operatives, who get lucky at the right point of time. The characters by themselves share a wonderful camaraderie and there is a lot of tongue in cheek humour in their conversations. That the characters are not meant to be taken seriously is clear in the way they keep talking of their exploits and proclaim themselves to be CID officers, whenever they meet someone. However Sreenivasan’s writing is so smart and witty that we usually end up laughing along with Dasan and Vijayan, rather than at them directly. Their antics and the cases they end up investigating take them places-from their hometown in Kerala to Chennai to Cochin to Coimbatore and even to the U.S, but they retain the innocence and charm that they had to begin with as unemployed youth with no hopes for their future.
Let’s take a look at each of these three iconic films and remember what makes them special even today, appealing even to the youth of today, most of them not even born during the time these filsm were released.
Nadodikattu–A Dream Start to the Trilogy
This is where the madness started and the film takes us through the hard life that Dasan and Vijayan go through. Unlucky to lose their jobs and after a truncated attempt to get into business, they decide to try their luck by escaping to Dubai. Gafoor (Mammukoya), the agent who promises to smuggle them into Dubai, tricks them by offloading them both in Chennai (Madras those days). What happens from thereon is what the rest of the film is all about. Despite tackling a very relevant theme like unemployment and survival in a different state, the film manages to keep the humour quotient relatively high resulting in high engagement levels with the proceedings. The film is peppered with hilarious moments like the attempts by Dasan and Vijyan to hoodwink their new Managing Director at work, landing in Chennai and roaming around the city dressed as Arabs (mistaking it to be Dubai initially) or even the Ananthan Nambiar (Thilakan)-Pavanayi (Captain Raju) segment.
Gafoor, Ananthan Nambiar and Pavanayi have gone to become iconic characters in their own right, the first two even returning in Pattanapravesham. Also all the three characters have often been referred to in Malayalam films over the years. Pavanayi has been paid tribute to in films like CID Moosa (similar costumes and mannerisms) and Mr.Pavanayi 99.99 (directed by Captain Raju himself where the iconic character re-emerges). Despite being a veteran of over 400 odd films Mammukoya is still fondly referred to as Gafoor, so popular is the character that it even gave rise to an animated series called ‘Gafoor ka dosth’ (in a direct reference to Nadodikattu). The dialogues in Nadodikatttu deserve special mention and by now ‘Pavanayi shavamayi’ and ‘Gafoor ka dosth’ have attained legendary status by now, signalling the popularity of the film and the characters. The romance in the film, between Dasan and Radha (Shobana) is of the subtle kind, never diverting our attention from the main plot.
Dasan and Vijayan share a unique love-hate relationship. Dasan always feels superior to Vijayan (B.com first class vs SSLC fail) and they keep fighting and arguing at the drop of a hat. But still they are inseparable and are there for each other when needed, this is something that is seen all through the trilogy. For a film that is high on satirical humour (unemployment, the typical Keralite’s Dubai fixation etc), Nadodikattu also has a couple of songs (composed by Shyam) which are popular even today- “Karakana” and “Vaisakha Sandhye”. In a way the mad cap climax is probably the trigger for the slapstick humour seen in abundance in the forthcoming films in the trilogy. Nadodikattu was remade in Tamil as Katha Nayagan and in Kannada as Tenali Rama, but thankfully there was no attempt to replicate the trilogy completely in any other language. Nadodikattu remains one of the more important Malayalam films of the 80’s, a departure of sorts from the more serious films seen those days.
Check out the ‘Gafoor ka dosth’ segment here
Pattanapravesham-Dasan and Vijayan on Home Turf
So as Nadodikattu ends Dasan and Vijayan get inducted into Tamil Nadu police department as CID officers and they continue their adventures in Pattanapravesham. Gold and drug smuggling has become a big menace in Kerala and a top cop Ashoka Varma (Prathap Chandran) who nabs crucial evidence against the smugglers is eliminated. With the state police making no headway in the investigation, the Kerala Home Minister (Oduvil Unnikrishnan) calls for CID Ramdas and CID Vijayan to come over and find Ashoka Varma’s murderers and the people behind the smuggling operations. How do Dasan and Vijayan go about handling the investigation is what the film is all about. Unlike in case of Nadodikattu which was satirical, Pattanapravesham is a full length comedy film. Right at the very beginning with Dasan and Vijayan’s entry into Kerala and the way they go on an overdrive trying to explicitly state their superiority over the local police, the film tells us that we are in for a joy ride and that they (Dasan and Vijayan) are not to be taken seriously.
The highlights of the film include Dasan and Vijayan’s attempts to get closer to the person they suspect to be the smuggler and of course Ananthan Nambiar, Balan (Innocent) and Gafoor’s strategic inclusion in the plot, all the three of them having featured prominently in Nadodikattu previously. The sub-plot of two bird watchers (N.L.Balakrishnan and Paravoor Bharathan) adds to the madness as eventually the film ends in similar fashion as Nadodikattu as the bad guys are all caught and once again Dasan and Vijayan receive laurels for their ‘success’. Throughout the film Ananthan Nambiar and Prabhakaran Thampi (Karamana Janardanan) are seen fearing the CID duo, while Dasan and Vijayan by themselves are shown as bumbling investigators who ultimately get lucky. Shobana makes way for Ambika in this film, but there is no romance as such seen between Mohanlal and Ambika. Pattanapravesham may not be in the same league as Nadodikattu but it does serve as a more than adequate follow-up act to it, probably that is why not only was it a commercial success, but also very much a film admired even today.
Akkare Akkare Akkare-Across the Seven Seas
Dasan and Vijayan get back together once again for their third adventure which was promoted as an ‘American Mission’ of Dasan and Vijayan. Priyadarshan took over the directorial reins from Sathyan Anthikkad but along with Sreenivasan the writer he ensured that the original template was not tampered with.This time the trigger is in the form of a priceless gold crown which gets stolen from a museum in Tamil Nadu leading to the wacky duo being sent all the way to U.S.A to retrieve it. The only clues on their hands regarding the suspect are his alleged name-Paul Barber, a piece of his torn shirt and the fact that the suspect has sustained a back injury. After they land in the U.S and after some initial fun and frolic, Dasan and Vijayan realize that this is a tough case on their hands and that solving it with the help of the clues on hand is akin to looking for a needle in a haystack. Once again there are confusions galore, the CID duo fight among themselves once again, before finally joining hands, a bit too late into the tale.
Parvathy is the female lead in this tale but she doesn’t have much to do apart from making Vijayan fall in love with her, only to suspect Dasan of upstaging him by winning her affection. All the American actors including the one playing Paul Barber and his cronies are enacted by amateurs/B grade actors, a typical stereotype of sorts. Mukesh, Manianpilla Raju, Sukumari, Nedumudi Venu, K.P.A.C Lalitha, Jagadish are all more than adequate in their roles. But the actor who really makes the film special (apart from Mohanal and Sreenivasan of course) is M.G.Soman, who plays Krishnan Nair the police chief responsible for sending Dasan and Vijayan to the U.S. Some of the best lines in the film are reserved for him, the scene in the hotel when he checks in as “Akira Kurosawa from Philippines, out to kill all mosquitoes” is rib tickling stuff indeed :). The climax is of similar fashion to the previous two films, but grander of course. Once again it is M.G.Soman who shines in the climax.
The other equally popular scene from the film is that of Dasan and Vijayan playing “original negroes who are expert laundrymen” :). Unlike Nadodikattu and Pattanapravesham when Akkare Akkare Akkare released it did not receive a uniform favourable response.Many people felt that the charm of the original was lost, also that the shift towards slapstick comedy was a little too much by now. But over the years Akkare Akkare Akkare has gone on to gain a massive following and now the film is extremely popular, becoming a home video and satellite T.V favourite down the line.The lines “sadhanam kayilundo?sadhanam kayilunde” have attained legendary status by now, anyone following Malayalam Cinema would tell you that :).
Check out Dasan and Vijayan playing ‘Original Negroes’
Over the years there have been many attempts to revive the franchise but so far nothing has actually yielded fruit. While now it is unsure if Dasan and Vijayan will ever return again to the big screen for a 4th adventure, we can continue to relive their exploits thanks to the glorious trilogy that they have been part of. Dasan and Vijayan will remain forever iconic characters in the history of Malayalam Cinema and their trilogy will remain a benchmark not just for Malayalam Cinema, but Indian Cinema as well.